Vikings earn 5th win to cap off regular season
At the end of the first half of Thursday’s home game against Denison, Junior Viking Luke Sternberg made a shot from 3-point range giving the Vikings a 34-19 lead en route to an eventual 63-56 victory, their 5th of the season.
Before the game started, Senior Viking Nick Denning was honored by the school for making his 91st start, a new school record. Denning has been starting games since his freshman season.
“That’s a lot of games,” said Viking Head Coach G.G. Harris. “From the time he was a freshman, he’s been a leader. He’s always been a guy for us to lean on. He means a lot to me, to the program, to the community, and he’s one of those culture kids. I’m super proud of him, humbled to be around him everyday. It was awesome to honor him at home and get a big win.”
Sophomore Monarch Blaine Grady scored the first points of the night, but Sophomore Viking Collin Harder responded with a 3-point shot putting the Vikings in front 3-2. Shots were exchanged following Harder’s basket with the final shots of the quarter coming from Sternberg on free throws, giving the Vikings a 17-13 leading at the end of the quarter.
Sophomore Viking Drew Lee made a shot from downtown early in the second quarter, followed by another 3-pointer which put the Vikings up 24-15. Denning got in on the action with back-to-back shots, followed by another 3-pointer from Harder, which was capped off by a 3-pointer from Sternberg to end the half.
“We’ve just got to keep it going and keep play our type of basketball,” Denning said. “We haven’t done that much, but we did tonight, so it was good.”
Senior Monarch Lance Arkfeld opened the third quarter with a shot up at the basket, but Harder and Denning answered back right away with baskets putting the Vikings up 39-21.
Arkfeld made another shot slowly chipping away at the Vikings lead, but the Vikings continued to answer back when Junior Camden Soukup made two shots, followed by another mid-range basket from Denning bringing the score to 45-29.
The Monarchs scored a few more buckets on free throws from Luke Wiebers, Jake Fink, and Arkfeld, but Harder added the final points of the quarter with two free throws making it a 47-34 game entering the final quarter.
Denning started the fourth quarter with back-to-back shots including a 3-pointer, putting his team up 18. Arkfeld answered back with a shot, but Soukup and Sternberg scored again expanding the Vikings lead to 20 points.
The Monarchs got into a groove following Sternberg’s basket going on a 10-0 run, cutting the Viking lead to 10 points. Sternberg was able to put a temporary stop to their run when he was sent to the free throw line making one of two baskets.
A few minutes later, the Vikings got back-to-back 3’s from Denning and Sternberg, followed by another free throw from Sternberg keeping the game at a double digit deficit. Towards the end of the quarter, the Monarchs went on a 5-0 run, but the Vikings hung on for the win.
The regular season has concluded for the Vikings finishing with a record of 5-16, with some of their wins coming against IKM-Manning, Audubon, Missouri Valley, and St. Albert. Despite a tough road, Harris was proud of the effort and attitudes his team showed.
“They’re doing the hard stuff when it is the hardest,” he said. “When things are already tough, to continue to embrace adversity and willing to learn and stick together, that is by far the biggest highlight.”
The Vikings will begin tournament play Monday on the road in the 2A-7 game at 7 p.m. against the 8-11 Clarinda Cardinals. The Cardinals are led by Creighton Tuzzio, averaging 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, along with Kyle Wagoner, averaging 2.9 assists per game.
“I’m excited,” Harris added. “I played there as a player. I haven’t been there yet as a coach. This is perfect timing because they’re going to be a big physical team. Playing Denison was perfect timing for us to go and see what that’s going to be like going down to Clarinda, playing in a tough environment against big physical kids. We believe it’s a very winnable game. Records don’t mean anything when it comes to the postseason.”